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Middleborough Public Schools

As a proud graduate of Middleborough Public Schools, Sean Siciliano has a lot of hometown pride for the community, the people, and the schools — the very same schools he attended as a student.

“Every student that comes through the district, somehow I know their family,” Siciliano shared. “I’m getting to the point where the classmates I graduated with, their kids are students here.”

“It's important to me to tell our district’s story and the great things we're doing because, ultimately, I want our families to easily access the information they're looking for.”

As a close-knit community of more than 500 dedicated teachers and 3,200 students in Middleborough, Massachusetts, MPS prides itself as a welcoming community that values education and supports the growth of every student, from Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade.

At a Glance

middleborough high school


MPS offers a range of academic programs and extracurricular activities that engage its students and foster critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills.

But as the district’s chief technology officer and communications director, Siciliano knew MPS’s old site hadn't aged well in the years since its previous launch, and the district’s message was getting lost. Staff, despite their best intentions, had added so many links to the homepage for quick access that it bogged the site down.

“I never felt like it was easy to find things on the old website, and I always thought it could look better,” Siciliano admitted.

“The web was evolving, and families and staff members wanted a place where they could post anything,” he shared. “We had a lot of old pages that teachers hadn't updated in three or five years.”

So with a launch date on the calendar and a redesign plan in place, MPS began the process of converting its sites from Blackboard’s Web Community Manager to modern designs with Composer, Finalsite’s content management system.

The Power and Flexibility of a Theme Design

Many schools opt to use one of Finalsite’s several Theme designs — a budget-friendly yet powerful option for schools looking for a quick launch, complete with an intuitive and flexible design that’s branded with their school’s colors, logos, and more.

desktop screenshot of middleborough high school

“We knew that there were going to be a lot of improvements,” said Siciliano. “We wanted that customized look, and with a Theme design, you can plug and play.”

“The theme is your backbone, it keeps your brand in line. You know that when you put an element in, it’s going to look like you want it to look because the theme is going to carry your brand through. It’s setting the guardrails.”

When a Finalsite website is launched, the web style guide gives administrators access to their site’s design elements, styling, colors, and any custom features so they can conveniently add content and start building pages.

“It's easy to just go through and put in the citations, buttons, or quotes,” Siciliano said. “In the old system, you had to go in knowing what you were doing and what you were looking for. You had to have the idea, and then you had to figure out how you were going to execute it.”

“Now, I click the quote styling and type in the citation, and it's so much easier. And you know it's branded throughout the site. I have options for download buttons or a colored sidebar; I can just copy the sidebar and paste it in, and I know it's going to look exactly like I want it to because I pulled it from the style guide. It also creates a seamless flow and design from one page to the other.”

This time, the district was going to design the site for the user experience and prioritize families, staff, and students  — seeing the redesign as an opportunity to rewrite content from scratch and evaluate who's using what — and why.

MPS reviewed its analytics to determine which content was being viewed and the number of clicks required to access certain pages. Then, it asked how it could optimize the navigation. For example, administrators once accessed their accounts through the “log in” button in the top right corner, but new families kept clicking on it, thinking it was for enrollment.

“We added a button for new student registration on the new website and added family links to all the resources families need. “I never knew how much people cared about the lunch menu,” Siciliano laughed.

“Providing quick access to popular resources that are used every day — it’s those little things that elevate our brand and make it more appealing and cohesive.”

A Strategic Launch Date

mobile app mockup of navigation

While many schools launch their new sites in the weeks before the start of the new school year, MPS wisely chose to go live in late November, after the back-to-school rush and when families were settled into the academic year.

“We were deliberate about how and when we launched,” Siciliano said. “We didn’t want a huge wave of new students registering for kindergarten on a brand-new site. We gave ourselves five or six months to get comfortable with the new site before 200 kids applied in the same week and a half. It's so much information that we knew it wouldn’t be healthy for our registration department.”

For now, MPS is gradually granting users access to update the website and admins can easily control which users or roles have editing privileges.

“We're going to start with just text changes and then slowly get into the styling. We've been very deliberate about making sure that our website stays on brand. Then we're going to roll out how our users can update their information.”

Peace of Mind and Time Saved

“We build so much on boards (within Finalsite’s Post module) and use tags to distribute the content throughout the sites. So on the district page, I build it on the board, and then if it's content just for our elementary schools, I add a tag, and it populates the correct sites.”

“The ability to copy and paste content in different places and the ability to swap out elements is so effective. For example, if we have a snow day, our whole school calendar changes. When you're pointing six different pages to one PDF, like the school calendar, you can go in, swap the resource, and you know that it's updated everywhere.”

“I oversee the entire technology department and public relations for the district, so there are a lot of other things on my plate. It definitely saves time, but the peace of mind is worth it tenfold.”

The Results: More Customization, Storytelling, and Accessibility

smartphone and desktop mockup of newstory

“With our new site, the customization features are huge,” Siciliano added. “We have the ability to change the top tiles, add graphics and headlines, create news feeds, and get that information out to all the families in the district.”

The site translation and accessibility aspects of Finalsite have been helpful for MPS, too. 

“You see all the different accessibility issues that other websites are having, and just knowing that when you do things the correct way through Finalsite, you're going to be accessible and it’s a huge relief for us.”

With a background in news and video production, Siciliano knows the power of storytelling and how much his district can shape a student’s experience and influence the larger community.

“It’s a small town, and it's getting bigger, but it's still got that ‘small-town feel’ where everybody knows who you are,” he said. “You can promote a story online, but you're always driving them back to the website to tell the full story.”

Today, MPS’s stories have a new place to call “home.”

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